Professional Teacher Staff Development

ING News & Information, 1/30/08

In this Edition:

  • News of Interest
  • ING Concludes Trainings and Prepares to Launch Interfaith Speakers Bureau
  • Professional Development Day at San Mateo Union High School District, 1/25/07
  • Community of Mindful Living Panel, 1/25/08
  • Thank You for Your Support!

News of Interest

Islam-West Rift Widens, poll says

“Most people in Muslim countries and the West believe divisions between them are worsening, a Gallup poll for the World Economic Forum (WEF suggests. According to the WEF poll, neither the West nor the Muslim world believed the other side respected it. ‘In all but two countries surveyed, . . . a majority believed the interaction between Western and Islamic communities is getting worse,’ said Mr. Schwab. Europeans apparently feared more interaction with Islam – according to the report, they saw it as a threat to their cultural identity. But people in the US, Canada, Israel and the Muslim world said more contact would be a good thing. Most respondents said they did not believe violent conflict was inevitable…and that the quality of the relationship between the West and the Muslim world was important to them personally.”

This recent poll illustrates the magnitude and gravity of this issue, but also emphasizes the potential and hope for greater understanding and improved relationships, which are directly related to greater contact. This highlights not only the importance of ING’s work, but the efficacy of its strategy which emphasize face to face interaction as the best way to change people’s perceptions, and the potential for such work here in the U.S., named as one of the countries that believes more contact would be a good thing.

ING Events of Interest

ING Concludes IFSB Trainings and Prepares to Launch the Interfaith Speakers Bureau

The last two trainings for the Interfaith Speakers Bureau (IFSB) took place on Wednesday, January 23rd in Oakland at the First Congregational Church, and Friday, January 25th in Milipitas at the India Community Center, bringing the total number of trainees from the three workshops to 35, with an equal number from each faith.

The three hour trainings all had a similar agenda, beginning with introductions and a description of the IFSB and its purpose. Trainees were then familiarized with the content of the two different types of panels that will be formed: the Five Faith Panel which includes the five major world religions, and the Muslim-Jewish Panel. Trainees were also provided the content for each of the panels from the perspectives of the five faiths, and an overview of guidelines for speaking about religion in public institutions based on First Amendment Center Guidelines. Trainees from other faiths were unanimous in their appreciation for these guidelines, which, with the exception of existing ING speakers were unfamiliar to most of the other faith representatives. It is ING’s adherence to these guidelines that has guaranteed its objectivity in teaching about religion in the public square, a critical component of this important work. The workshops concluded with some basic tips for panelists and facilitators, and an overview of certification procedures. Trainees were highly engaged throughout, with discussions among the trainees particularly invaluable because they presented ideas to further develop the program especially in the area of Frequently Asked Questions, which will eventually be developed for each of the faiths.

The program is scheduled to launch in February following the testing and certification of speakers. The first panels will be scheduled between March and June, with this pilot program continuing until June, when it will be evaluated for a larger launch in September. In the interim, speakers will continue to meet monthly to evaluate and finalize the program. Additional trainings will be held on an ongoing basis to eventually create a pool of up to 200 interfaith speakers throughout the Bay Area. These speakers will be from lay practitioners rather than the clergy, giving a human face to religions that are often unfamiliar or appear foreign to those outside the faith. To learn more about this innovative project, or to contribute to the program, please contact ING’s Interfaith Program Associate, Yasmine Khan at [email protected].

Professional Development Day at San Mateo Union High School District, 1/25/08

ING’S president, Maha Elgenaidi conducted a Teachers Training for two groups of social studies teachers at the San Mateo Unified High School district on Friday, January 25. The two 75 minute workshops addressed the topic of teaching about Islam and Muslims in the context of social sciences and other contemporary issues. After presenting an overview on the basics of what it means to be Muslim, discussions centered on topics such the normative in Islamic theology in comparison with trends and practices in the Muslim world today. The teachers were particularly interested in understanding the phenomenon of extremism and political Islam. The questions were extremely intelligent and thoughtful, and the group had an impressive amount of knowledge. They were also interested in learning about resources for teachers, which can be found on ING’s website at:

Community of Mindful Living Panel, 1/25/08

ING speaker, Uzma Husseini participated in a panel discussion hosted by the “Community of Mindful Living” in Oakland on Friday, January 25th. The interfaith panel discussion focused on the importance of community service in each of their faith tradition, with panelists sharing their specific practices. Uzma described the importance of feeding people, generosity, and compassion in Islam and the role of Ramadan as an impetus for learning to sacrifice for the sake of others. Participants were interested to learn a different side of Islam than what they are generally informed about in the media, and expressed an interest to learn more. At the end of the program, a participant remarked to Uzma that “Islam is a religion she knows the least about, and that all she knows is what is said about the extremists on television, but that it was clear that Uzma was not like that,” an illustration of the power of face to face interaction.

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